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Details: At twenty-two, Sylvie Carson has known a lifetime’s worth of trouble. When she was a child, her baby brother was shot to death by a man named Preacher Eli. Orphaned by her teens, Sylvie is now raising her own baby with no partner in sight. For all these reasons, Leah Teal, Alvin, Alabama’s only detective, tries to stay patient when Sylvie calls the station day and night, always with some new false alarm. But now, Preacher Eli is out of prison amd moving back to town.
As far as he law is concerned, the old man has paid his dues; though Leash’s twelve-year-old son, Abe, vehemently disagrees. Between that and his relentless curiosity about the daddy he hardly knew, Abe’s imagination is running in all directions lately. While Leah struggles with how much of the past to reveal to Abe, she/s also concerned about Sylvie’s mounting panic. Something in her gut tells her the girl might be a target after all. For as Leah knows well, there’s danger not just in the secrets others keep from us, but in the lies that corrupt from within. It’s a hunch that will be tested soon enough as tensions mount on both sides.
Evoking the South with depth and grace, Michael Hiebert’s poignant, gripping novel captures the strength wrought by heartache and lost innocence; and the transformative power of forgiveness. Wherever it comes. . .
About the Author: Michael Hiebert is an award-winning author of novels and short stories. He won the prestigious Surrey International Writers’ Conference Storyteller’s Award twice in a row and had had his work listed in The Best American Mystery Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. He lives in Canada with his family.
Personal Experience: I received a copy of Close to the Broken Hearted for the purpose of this review and as part of the Spa Week Book Club.
This novel starts with a scene that will haunt you well after you finish the book. Though it is powerful and disturbing, it sets the scene for the emotional mystery to follow.
You cannot help but get drawn into the lives of these characters. We are sympathetic to the tragic past and traumatized present of Sylvie. We feel a connection to Leah… the police officer and mother with her own traffic past. And, we have our comic relief in Leah’s son Abe.
The release of Preacher Eli, the man who killed Sylvie’s brother when they were young children, has been released from prison. A series of mysterious events are shedding a bad light on the preacher and driving Sylvie to hysteria. Leah is the only one taking Sylvie seriously… all while dealing with her son’s growing interest in his deceased father… a death she has yet to deal with herself. The stories all mingle together. Though your perspective changes with each person, you’re taken there seamlessly and logically. Very well written.
This novel is what I would call a summer read. There is drama and a mystery to solve, but overall it is a story about people and perceptions. The back of the book has a great reading group guide for further exploring the topics. I found the questions interesting to ponder over within myself, too… though it has me wanting to seek out a reading group to discuss this with!